Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Do Guide Dogs Follow Instructions in Sign Language?

Several weeks ago, Leif, my guide dog and I were at a presentation on working guide dogs at Madera Fairgrounds here in Central California.

Some of our audience were children from a deaf class. They as most children seem to do loved meeting Leif, he is a very calm dog, and very friendly in crowds.

One of the children asked me if Leif could be told to work using sign language. Other members of his class laughed and said it was a silly suggestion but then I weighed in with the bombshell.

Leif does actually use sign language on many occassions. When we go forward, left or right, I point the way to go. Same with telling him to wait. All are accomplished with their own required hand signal.

Here is a link  to my recent video showing what I mean.

Do you have any questions about blindness or using a guide dog that you would like answered?

If so please ask your question in the comments section below.

300th Post

Well here we are folks. This is the 300th post on this blog and funnily we just passed the 33,300th visit too.

My first posts on this blog were published on June 1st, 2011. So almost five years have passed us by. I have had some gaps in posting, lots of time there was just no muse to drive me, sometimes there was sickness and a lot of time I was just too lazy to come up with an idea after spending a whole day in work.

Looking back over those almost five years it is hard to see  how I was then. I had better sight then, I could still see through my left eye after injections. I had only surrendered my drivers license a few months earlier. Today my left eye has recovered some light perception after several months of regular injections of Eye-LEA  That was after several months of no light perception in my left eye at all.

I am not saying Eye-Lea is a wonder drug, I cannot do that. I am suggesting that it has merely done the job it is supposed to do and has reduced the iscaemia (swelling ) in my left eye enough to allow some of the retina to work again. The light perception is not all over it is just a little view in about the eleven o'clock position. Sometimes I can see the shadows of objects mostly the shadow is a dimming of the light.

I have tried to post a mix of tech stuff, news, my experiences of day to day life and some humor too.

I have moved home, moving from a small rural town to a much busier life in the city. I now live minutes from my doctors offices where a trip to the doctor used to be a major operation in planning and negotiation. I can now travel to appointments alone with my guide dog. I have learned Grade 1 Braille, how to work with programs such as JAWS and even learned how to work in a television studio. The last one is my own biggest surprise.

I am a member of several committees at my local California Council of the Blind chapter and on one committee of the State organization.

I greatly enjoyed going to the State CCB convention last October as a delegate for my local chapter.
Polly a german shepherd looks directly into the camera.

The biggest change in my life over the last five years has been the death of my pet German Shepherd "Polly" she was nineteen years old. Then a year after losing Polly a young black Labrador came into my life. His name is "Leif" he is not a pet. He is my guide dog partner.

The introduction to using a guide dog was a major change in my life. Leif has given me more mobility and independence. It has also meant that it takes me longer to go about my daily business, but whereever we go, my wife laughs she can find me at the center of any group of young women. Guide dogs definitely tick the box for "Chick magnet" status.
Leif a Black Labrador Retriever looks directly into the camera.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Back in the TV Studio

I stand beside a studio TV camera, wearing headphones to hear the control room behind me the set lit for interview.
William at the camera
This week saw me in the television studio again. I was working with a producer who had gone through the training process with me last November. It was fun to work with her, I think I must push harder to get my programs off the ground.

Her program was recording both an interview and a music spot. To be finished off in post production, that is she would use editing later to make it look like we recorded the band playing and then did a recorded interview before going back to the band. The good thing about video and such is that if you record things well enough you get to play around with time.

The whole program recording was scheduled to last about four hours. Crew call, the arranged meeting time was set for noon, the band to arrive  at about 1pm recording two songs, this became four songs and a couple of dances, then  then the last hour an interview of about fifteen minutes in length.

The hour from noon till one was spent setting up the cameras we were using  four cameras for the shoot,  it had originally been five cameras but one broke down in preparation. The breakdown was frustrating as it would have been shooting some of the close-ups of the singers in the band. Argh Technology. Don't you hate it sometimes?

So with the studio finally set up we milled around the studio, as we seem to do a lot on such occassions. Waiting for the band.

When the band arrived it was huge, drummers, trumpets, trombones and a giant Sousaphone. Eeek. The studio is only about forty feet wide and deep, then added to the musicians there were five singers. In all the band totalled twenty performers, then their manager and his  people were also in the studio. The studio filled up pretty quickly.

We then set about doing the work on audio. This means setting up microphones the sound engineer sets the volumes and balances out in the control room. For those of us on cameras it is time to set focus and plan shots. Then more waiting as everyone else gets ready.

Then at last all checks done. The director calls through the headsets to check that we cameras can hear and when we confirm we can they roll the recording, actually nothing rolls these days as a program is recorded on an SD card not video tape or film.

Cue the band.

Erm! The sound just beats into my chest. I now can no longer hear anything but the band, it is fifteen musical instruments after all, all of them playing as loudly as they can. Loud is not really the word as trumpets call out in harsh peels. I wonder if I am in a studio or in the midst of a Mexican bullfight.

I am just left blind and now deaf to any instruction. The director could be screaming in my ear for all I know. I hear nothing but the music.  I just am left hoping that no one is calling a new set of shots from me because it ain't gonna happen.

Finally the band stop.  The directors voice now rings out clear. We need another take, the band need to look more like they are enjoying the show.

"Roll Record"

The music hits me again. I Hop happily behind my camera, dancing and swaying, oblivious to my directors calls again. Embraced by the songs of Old Mexico.

To see my earlier posts on my Week in the Television Studio Experience CLICK HERE

Friday, February 5, 2016

How a Sighted Person Can Help a Blind Person

It's strange how some coincidences just happen. Just yesterday I published the video below and I was in desperate need of a sighted guide.

The reason Ineeded a sighted guide yesterday was quite simple. I was walking with my guide dog in the downtown area when someone in a park to our right suddenly started screaming and ranting. The park is a favorite haunt of homeless people and all sorts of screams and shouts of abuse are common. Well yesterday there must have been something in the shouts that Leif, my giuide dog just didn't like and he froze. Wouldn't go forward nor back.

A couple of people walked by and told me we were at the top of an incline. I knew this because I walk down there regularly but otherwise they did nothing to help, even though I asked if there was an obstacle ahead, Leif may have seen an obstacle several feet ahead after all and not wanted me to go into a dead end. No one answered.

Then a young woaman who was passing came over, asked me if I needed help. I asked about any obstacles and she confirmed there were non in the area. Then asked if she could guide me a little.

That was good. Even better was that she offered me her elbow. Great, she knew the correct way to be a sighted guide. We walked carefully down the incline. Leif was breaver with the extra pair of eyes. The rant and swearing still continued over to our right and Leif pulled left a little, so I guess he was just nervous of the ranter.

At the bottom of the incline Leif took over again, I said my thank yous to the young woman and we made our seperate ways.

In the end it was so great a relief to meet a stranger who knew how to be a sighted guide.

The rules are.

1.. Ask if the person needs assistance.

2. If Yes to 1. Offer an elbow to the blind person.

3. Let the blind person cup your elbow in their fingers.

4. Lead them steadily, warning of any obstacles to the front, Left or right as you come up to them.

Do you have any experience of sighted guides that you would like to share? Post your stories in the comments below.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Worst Things About Going Blind

Recently I have been working on a series of videos which integrate with posts on this blog. They are just short videos. They are meant to describe my experience of going blind in middle age.

As some of you may know I began to go blind in late 2001. I had a series of Central Retinal Vein Oclusions over the first few years of this century. This led to my losing most of the sight in my right eye and being left with mere light perception in my left eye.

In this,, the latest of the serries to be relased on YouTube I talk about some of the problems caused by CRVO. The visual halucinations, lack of clarity in vision and also the difficulty of night blindness.

In my other videos in the series I talk about positives, the practicalities of day to day living and also some of the funny things that have happened to me since losing my eyesight.

So if you have enjoyed this video, please give it a thumbs up.

If you have any questions about my experiences then please ask questions in the comments below or on the video.  Also ask questions that might be valuable as future video ideas.